Toronto, Canada – 2015

Toronto, Canada

Good morning. Bonjour. We’re on our way to the airport and just kicked off our summer tour with a beautiful festival night in Toronto. What a fantastic city! Big international cosmopolitan but oh so civilized! My assistant said, “They’re so polite.” He’s right…polite. As we all should be…. sensitivity, humanity. They have a Blue Jay stadium and a Maple Leaves and Raptors arena and a thousand brand new high-rise residential apartment buildings inundating the old traditional downtown and preserving it with new, young business people and workers.

So maybe it’s not surprising that this year they’re celebrating their 27th Jazz Festival, which is so much like the above. Real tradition lasting over 10 days with multiple venues. Big ones, small ones, even local clubs celebrating the spirit of this music and preserving it for the future.

Well, all has not been well here. The winter was brutal and long lasting up until what seems like just a few days ago. Jumping right from winter to summer. No spring! Lips still blue and chins trembling.

We got one more parting shot from Mother Nature with a serious rainstorm that began during our concert. They surly knew about this surprise weather possibility long ago and sheltered the main stage of the festival under a beautiful white tent holding a thousand seats. Out beyond the tent was a close-up standing area with at least as many people as under the main tent. They had umbrellas and seemed to deal with the rain almost as if it was another concertgoer in their midst. Brazil, Florida, and London know this phenomenon well and also prepare for it.

Kurt Elling, Christian McBride, and others are all part of this Jazz Festival, but tonight it would be me and “Soul Understated feat. Mavis Poole”, a young, progressive, soulful funky jazz group since 2008 that has managed to do the elusive thing of combining R&B and Hip/Hop rhythms (not sampled but played by a real bass player and drummer and guitarist) that created electrically sparkly and charged space where horn solos could operate at will—real jazzy. I said to the audience that Miles or Coltrane would love that canvas. Beautiful Mavis Poole slid her vocal tones in and throughout this backdrop daring to not be like Aretha or Chaka. I really loved them and told them so. They’re so good as openers- I think this combination is a good one.

We followed with what I thank God for more and more each day—to have some history and legacy, and yes, even lots of years in this changing and fluctuating profession and art form. My 100 meter times are not the same and my high notes are a little lower, but I have a collection of music from my recorded and performing past that remains a pretty good calling card. These days being new and establishing yourself in this “quick startup” world is a big challenge. So we go to stage every night with a welcomed past and anxious ears and minds hoping to hear the song they danced to on their wedding night or “Boogie Down” that they play for their kindergarten class because of the message.

And so even here in Toronto, Canada, or as it will be throughout this summer tour in Europe, we joyously go to stage and sprinkle that good ole stuff with new arrangements and brand new music that continues to be satisfying and attracts new listeners as well. This Toronto audience was close and nearby to the front of the stage and hot and receptive. They allowed me to chat and reflect a bit during and between songs, which, for me, is of super importance. This intimacy allows folks to enter my world and thinking for a little while. The marvelous and amazing thing for singers is language—words and thoughts and ideas communicated in the most common form of human interaction (speaking and listening). Something special happens when you can keep that as an integral part of your performance.

Of course, I tend to talk too much…

But these days I get to talk about me and George Duke and our old friendship, and then we play “My Old Friend”. That’s important. The people out back in the intermittent rain with umbrellas seemed to not notice Mother Nature’s little entrance as we moved through our program of ballads and fire. They even stood up several times and clapped until we did encores.

If you read again what I said a few paragraphs ago about being grateful, then you have an expanded sense of how wonderfully this season’s concerts, beginning in Japan back in November and continuing through the Spring and now with a great night in Toronto as we begin the summer tour, lift me up and leave me feeling fresh as I work with a new and different physical body. Oh yeah! I left 3 and ½ vertebrae from my lower back at Cedar Sinai Hospital in October last year, but I’m still kickin’. So look out, hear we come, Moissac. Hear we come, Bordeaux and Paris.

Can’t wait to see y’all!




Share : facebooktwittergoogle plus

Leave us a comment

Comments are closed.